Building resilience in children: A guide for parents
Children are amazing. There’s beauty and potential in their minds that we can only imagine, and there’s no telling what they might accomplish one day. It is our job as parents to guide them towards reaching their goals, whatever they may be. We need to protect them as much as we can, which sometimes means that we have to teach them how to protect themselves and deal with certain problems on their own. They need to develop resilience, and we should help them do that. Here are some ways of building resilience in children.
Help them face their fears
Comforting your child and sheltering them from whatever’s challenging them might be your first impulse, but try not to do it anyway. If your child is scared of something, they might either face it or do whatever they can to run away from it. However, a good solution would be to support them in facing their fears gradually, one step at a time. Talk to them, ask them questions and lead them towards the realization that they are capable of coping with their fears on their own.
Sometimes what scares them won’t even happen and it’s something they need to figure out themselves, but with your guidance. Calmly acknowledge their fear and never belittle or ridicule them for it. Let them talk and listen to what they tell you, since talking is a way for them to process things in their mind and come up with solutions to their problems. Be supportive and patient until your child learns that they’re in control of their fears and their emotions.
Be a good role model
Your child will recognize your anxiety, sadness or disappointment as something negative and they will watch how you deal with them. Let them know that there’s nothing wrong with feeling these emotions. Once they see that it’s normal to feel negative emotions sometimes and that they’re not impossible or too difficult to overcome, they will accept that they, too, can sometimes feel sad and that that’s perfectly fine.
Through your own example, teach them that one bad experience doesn’t mean that all similar experiences will have a negative outcome. And even if the outcome is negative, it’s not the end of the world. If you can bounce back and try again, so can they. Furthermore, if you feel they’re having a problem with handling their emotions, a good way to channel their feelings is writing about them.
A great idea would be to get matching office supplies, like diaries and notepads for you and your child, and spend time together writing about your emotions and experiences, so that your child can analyze them later. Also, let your actions reflect that you can solve your problems without help, which means that they can and should try to do so, as well.
Develop optimism in your child
Nurturing optimism is another way to build resilience in your child. If your child has a slightly negative view of the world, acknowledge that, but show them a different, brighter view. Let them know mistakes happen to everybody and they’re a great way to learn something, so that they’re more successful in their next similar experience. And help them find something good in bad situations, until they can find the positive side of things themselves. For example, if they’re looking forward to a field trip, and it gets cancelled, offer them to do other fun things that they wouldn’t be able to do if they were on the field trip. Take them out yourself or organize a play-date with a friend they like to show them that the glass is half-full, rather than half-empty.
Let them play and exercise
Physical exercise makes your kid’s brain more resilient to stress, so having them run after a ball or a Frisbee, or giving them a hula-hoop to spin might be of great help. Plus, through creative games and wild play, your child can develop problem-solving skills and strengthen their resilience.
Teach them how to develop healthy relationships
Being resilient doesn’t mean being self-sufficient. Having a supporting, loving and reliable relationship with an adult can help your child develop skills necessary to cope with stressful situations and negative emotions. It can be a family member, a teacher or even a neighbour, but your child can learn a lot from a trusted person’s response to various situations.
Remind your little one that there are a lot of people who care about them and cheer for them. Let them know that these people are proud of their achievements and successes. Also, it’s important to develop empathy in your kid, so that they can form strong relationships with other children their age.
Being kind to others can improve their self-confidence and make them proud of themselves, as well as form important bonds with children similar to them. Plus, your child needs to know asking others for help shows strength and wisdom, not weakness. So, it’s important they have a small network of people they can ask for help without any inhibition.
Above all the mentioned strategies, the most important one is to love your child as much as possible and to show them that they have your support whenever they need it. Believe in your child, so that they can learn to believe in themselves. It’s the best gift you can give them.